Nine schools selected to be in pilot group this year.
By Raven L. Hill / AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Friday, September 14, 2007
Earnings will be tied to learning at nine Austin schools this year.
Principals and teachers at six elementary schools, two middle schools and Lanier High School will have an opportunity to earn performance bonuses as part of the school district's strategic compensation plan
The compensation plan will include high-achieving campuses with high teacher retention rates as well as those that struggle to raise student performance and keep staff so officials can compare the plan's effect, if any, on student achievement.
As in some other school systems, Austin officials hope to use the bonuses as a way to recruit, retain and reward quality educators.
Officials started looking at performance pay three years ago, laying the groundwork for the $4.3 million plan launching this fall. Twenty campuses will be eligible to participate in the 2008-09 school year, and all campuses will be eligible in 2012.
"We're trying to see if paying teachers results in changed behavior not only on the part of teachers, but also in the way that the district supports teachers," said Louis Malfaro, president of Education Austin, which represents more than 4,000 teachers and staff members.
The plan excludes assistant principals and instructional coaches this year, which has caused some grumbling.
However, district officials think that crafting their plan alongside area teacher groups, earmarking funds to ensure its long-term sustainability and phasing it in slowly will ensure its success.
Under the plan, teachers and principals at high-needs schools can earn the largest stipends. Teacher stipends at those campuses range from $8,400 to $13,400, and principals can earn up to $15,500.
Novice teachers at those campuses will also receive full-time mentors, who can earn up to $5,000.
Teachers at each school will develop their own student learning objectives, two goals for the semester or school year, such as improving the scores of 85 percent of students by two or more levels on an Advanced Placement test. By meeting their goals, teachers can earn up to $1,500.
This will allow teachers to be recognized in ways that go unnoticed under federal and state accountability systems, district officials said.
State achievement tests will be used as schoolwide growth measures, but the learning objectives will be closely tied to classroom instruction.
With greater emphasis on high-stakes testing, Malfaro said, many teachers have wondered how they can reclaim their classrooms. "Part of the promise of strategic compensation is focusing on the training, support and professional development," he said.
Jon David Saucedo, a bilingual third-grade teacher at Sims Elementary School, a pilot campus, said he expects other staff to be included later. Incentives are needed at schools like Sims, he said.
"Although they are great kids, they have different needs, and it can be difficult to serve that every day. But we don't use that as an excuse."
Collins Van Nort, a sixth-grade teacher at Barton Hills Elementary, a pilot campus, said that he likes certain aspects of the plan, such as the retention bonuses, but that it is lacking in other ways.
"It's not a good substitute for an across-the-board pay increase," said Van Nort, who has worked in the district for 25 years. "I don't like the competitive aspect of it, (the implication) that we need to be like the business world and have incentives for performance. I think everyone is working to their fullest at this point."
Strategic compensation plan highlights
Nine Austin schools, five of them high-needs campuses, will be in the pilot group this year:
Barton Hills, Hart, Menchaca, Rodriguez, Sims and Sunset Valley elementary schools
Dobie and O. Henry middle schools
Lanier High School
At a high-needs school, teachers can earn $8,400 to $13,400 in bonuses. Principals can earn $6,000 to $15,500. At other campuses, the bonuses are up to $7,000 for teachers and $11,000 for principals.
Retention: A retention stipend will be phased in next school year at high-needs campuses. Teachers can earn $1,000 to $3,000 depending on their years of experience, and up to $6,000 in future years. Principals can receive $3,000.
Mentoring: Novice teachers will receive a part-time or full-time mentor, who can earn up to $5,000.
Teachers can receive up to $400 in stipends if they pursue National Board Certification. Educators who mentor teachers through the certification process will receive a $1,000 stipend.
State achievement tests: Teachers can receive up to $4,000 if math and reading objectives are met on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. Principals can earn up to $8,000.
Classroom learning objectives: Teachers can earn up to $3,000 depending on the campus and the number of objectives met.